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Campsite types explained: modern camping in Europe

Campsite types explained: modern camping in Europe

A guide to different types of campsite and approaches to camping in modern day Europe

What the word ‘campsite’ stands for in different countries

Both the concept of camping and the word ‘campsite’ have always represented different experiences in different parts of the world.

Camping has remained a popular pastime across the world for centuries, with a recent surge in popularity in recent years. What camping and campsites look like in different places depends on landscapes, natural conservation measures and each region’s camping culture.

In the vast continent of North America, camping often takes place in the wild or in large nature reserves, national forests and grassland. In the far more densely populated continent of Europe however, campsites are much more common, with camping regulations differing per country.

 For instance, in parts of Scandinavia, you have the ‘allemannsretten’ otherwise known as ‘freedom to roam’, which makes wild camping a possibility. In most parts of Europe, however, the need to balance and conserve various natural resources and wildlife mean that camping usually takes place within a campsite or on a privately owned piece of land.

While both types of camping have their charms, many camping enthusiasts in Europe prefer some version of a campsite over wild camping, since campsites often have access to home comforts such as toilets, running water and electricity, while giving campers plenty of access to nature and an outdoor lifestyle.

Campspace in Spain - Camping el Cares Picos de Europa

Garden campsites, glamping campsites, small-scale campsites and more 

Campsites come in many shapes and forms and, similarly to the practice of camping, look different in different countries. In western Europe, many people associate campsites with big, sprawling properties consisting of hundreds of pitches devoted to tents, RVs, campervans and trailers. Sometimes these commercial campsites offer recreational activities on site, like playgrounds for children, swimming pools, games rooms and cafeteria facilities.

 In recent years, campsites and camping facilities have evolved to take on new forms. New, innovative approaches to outdoor holidays cater to younger generations, people who prefer more privacy, untouched nature or luxury, and those who prefer to spend time in nature closer to home.

In addition to large-scale commercial campsites, nowadays you can find a variety of camping options that offer more unique experiences, including garden campsites, glamping campsites and small-scale campsites, to name a few. In fact, the variety is so large, camping enthusiasts can now tailor their camping experiences to their specific preferences and needs like never before.

We know that with all these options, finding the right campsite for yourself, your friends or family can be daunting. Read on to learn more about the top styles of campsite and camping popular in Europe today. Who knows, you may just discover the perfect fit for your next outdoor adventure!

Campspace campsites

Private landowner campsites and garden campsites 

Sometimes described as 'gamping’, a shorthand for garden camping, private landowner campsites are an innovative way for landowners to share nature that would otherwise be out of reach for the general public. Garden camping pitches or campsites provide outdoor enthusiasts with hundreds of unique options by giving them access to private gardens, fields, farmlands and forests. The rise of these privately owned campsites has made it that much easier to spend time in nature without travelling far. Now, outdoor enthusiasts can look up garden campsites in their immediate area and book a pitch for the very next day.Whether you want to call it gamping, garden campsites, hosted campsites or private land campsites, this spin on traditional camping is here to stay. 

Garden campsites are often set up and hosted by members of the community who want to share the nature on their land with others, be they locals or travellers from abroad. As more landowners discover the appeal of welcoming guests on their property, the number of hosted campsites increases. For guests, this means that camping experiences in nature become easier to access and more practical options for weekend trips.

The experience that comes with camping in someone’s garden is why many ‘gamping’ enthusiasts are trading in commercial campsites for the unique and personal experience of camping on private land. 

Oftentimes, there are friendly conversations between hosts and guests, personalised advice and even shared meals or drinks by the campfire. As you might expect, garden campsites are much smaller than commercial campsites, sometimes only accommodating one tent at a time. This can mean more interaction between guests and hosts, more freedom for pets or children, less noise, and overall, a more relaxed atmosphere.

Visiting a privately-owned campsite doesn’t mean you’ll always be pitching a tent in an empty garden. Some garden campsite hosts put in a lot of effort to transform their garden or land into comfortable or exciting hospitality experiences. From guest toilets and showers, outdoor kitchens and seating areas to ziplines, treehouses and glamping setups, these entrepreneurial hosts are only limited by their imaginations.

Glamping campsites

As camping and outdoor holidays increase in popularity, more and more campsite owners and hosts are starting to cater to higher price point, upscale camping, otherwise known as glamping. 

Glamping campsites are often dedicated solely to glamping tents, including bell tents, tipi tents, safari tents and other structures such as yurts, treehouses or geodesic domes. Sometimes campsites devote a portion of their land to glamping tents and the rest to regular tent pitches and campervan pitches.

Glamping tents or structures are normally pre-installed at campsites, often with beds, bedding and lighting inside. In this way, the experience of glamping comes much closer to that of a hotel or resort. When leaving for a glamping trip, guests only need to think about bringing appropriate clothing for more time spent outside. Otherwise, they don’t need to worry about bringing much else, as everything they need for a comfortable sleeping arrangement is taken care of.

Glamping experiences are often offered as part of a commercial endeavour, but nowadays glamping tents are common additions to garden campsites and smaller-scale campsites too. This is a great way for hosts to offer a comfortable experience for their guests, while making the most of outdoor space on their property. Staying in a glamping tent on a private land campsite or small-scale campsite is a great way for guests to have an authentic outdoor holiday experiencein a low-key, peaceful setting, without sacrificing on comfort.

Campspace near Knoteberg - Flemish Ardennes

Small-scale campsites

Campsite owners are becoming wise to the fact that many people are looking to escape crowds on their outdoor holiday. Although they run their campsite as a serious business, they take pains to make sure each camping, glamping or campervan pitch is situated in a way that gives their occupants a peaceful experience, close to nature.

Visiting a small-scale campsite, often called a ‘minicamping’ in Western Europe, means guests can enjoy a range of amenities without the chaos of many children or crowds.

On a small campsite, you can expect proper shower and dishwashing facilities, running water and it’s likely they will accommodate for campfires as well.

If you are travelling in an RV or campervan, you have a better chance of enjoying electricity ports for your vehicle and sanitation facilities.

Lieve's campspace in Pelt, Belgium 4749

Farm campsites

A farm campsite is a small campground run by a farmer on a portion of his/her available land. The farm campsite trend is popular throughout Europe, a large portion of which is dedicated to farmland. For various reasons, including letting their land lie fallow (left for a period without being sown, to restore its fertility) or simply not requiring the land, farmers dedicate a field or orchard to guests for camping with a tent or parking their campervan, camperbus or RV.

Some farmers leave it at this, but others truly take on the challenge of becoming a Campspace host, by equipping their campsite with electricity, bathroom facilities, cooking and washing facilities and rain shelter. 

Equestrian farm campspace in Normandy 4043

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